(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

EXISTENTIALISM  AND   SURREALISM               451

classify him as an existentialist; in any case he is too remote from
gush of sentiment and rush of rhetoric, too precise and thought-
fully sober in his style, too metaphysically introspective and self-
probing, too clear and concrete to be put cheek by jowl with his
friends Franz Werfel and Max Brod. Moreover he is monothematic,
whereas the expressionists proper launch out all-embracing into
worlds known and unknown. Today Kafka is classed both as a
magic realist and as a surrealist; and certainly he is not shy of
describing the lowest and even the filthiest aspects of life; but, as
we shall see, his realism and obscenities are symbols. He is indeed
a surrealist in the sense that his world is tiberwrklicb; but this
amounts rather to mysticism than to realism. In his division of
existence into the two worlds of finite reality and metaphysical
reality he is likely to have learned something from Dostoievsky;
e.g. Kafka's ultimate purpose is to reconcile these two worlds,
which is the problem handled in Crime and Punishment. This recon-
ciling of the two worlds of the sensuous and earthly and the
irrational world of spirituality (Geistigkeif), the finite and the in-
finite, is the theme to which Kafka restricts his considerable fer-
tility of invention - as it is, too, of Kierkegaard, in whose works
Kafka was versed, particularly in 7urcht und Zittern. What distin-
guishes Kafka from other religious thinkers is that he expresses
the infinite in finite terms. In his writings the finiteness of reality
does not exist; there are the outward chattels and furniture of
reality, but the characters who move about in this nominally
naturalistic environment and carry the sense of the story (the
Sinnfigureri) are irrational, ghost-like.

No one who reads Kafka can miss the fact that there is no des-
cription of landscape; except, more or less, in the novel Amerika,
where some idea of the outside scene is given; generally speaking,
rooms and offices, courts of law, pubs, and all the rest are vision-
ary. What presses in on the reader's consciousness is the sense of
what is behind the scenes; what happens in actuality has often the
appearance of rank nonsense. Neither is there psychology in the
psychologist's sense; the probing into states of mind is religious,
not medical. For this reason the cock-sure equivalences of the
psychologists are beside the mark.

If we attach importance to the framework of the stories we
must recognize that for the horrific happenings and the trans-
mutations of animals to beasts, etc, there is a pedigree reaching